Frustrated by FDA inaction on guidance for digital marketing and social media, a host of industry players are banding together to form a nonprofit that can hammer out consensus on a way forward.

The Digital Health Coalition is being convened by Mark Bard, formerly of Manhattan Research, and boasts some of the drug and digital health industries’ biggest names on its advisory board. Among them are representatives from Merck, Roche, AstraZeneca, Lilly, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Epocrates and HealthCentral, along with agencies Edelman and Digitas Health.

The aim, says Bard, is to get a conversation started.

“A lot of us have ideas about how the industry can evolve,” says Bard. “Let’s start that conversation, with Google and Epocrates in the room and the coalition as a facilitator, and then work with DDMAC and from almost a liaison perspective say: ‘Hey, would you like to be a part of this conversation?’”

After a marathon two-day DDMAC public hearing on the topic in 2009, many drug marketers and medical agency execs were hopeful that FDA would soon issue guidance that might narrow the regulatory gray areas in digital marketing. The agency first delayed and then scotched those hopes, pending further studies, by saying in late March, more or less: Don’t hold your breath.

The industry has, to one extent or another, moved on, however cautiously, having accepted that little official clarity is forthcoming. The Digital Health Coalition’s position, says Bard, is that it’s not the government’s job to tell industry how to market its products responsibly through digital channels. Rather, says Bard, “We fully intend to engage DDMAC and to come up with an industry consensus and say, ‘This is what we think makes sense.’”

The Digital Health Coalition will issue white papers and convene roundtables and webinars looking at three issues: mobile health, social media in health, and search. An introductory webinar is scheduled for June 23 at 10am Eastern Time.